Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps last night’s win over the Cavs: “Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club repeatedly got high quality shots, including 10 three-point attempts from Alex Abrines, but the ball just wouldn’t drop. Throughout the game there were some inconsistent stretches – a possession where the ball hit the paint and swung around for a wide-open shot then the next a no-pass dribble up long two jumper. For the night, the Thunder took 16 non-paint twos, leaving the door open for the Cavaliers to make their eventual 13-0 run to make it a contest down the stretch… Over the final 5 minutes, however, the Thunder didn’t take a single non-paint two-point jump shot. Everything was at the rim, from behind the three-point line or after a foul at the free throw line. With the game tied at 84, George and Dennis Schröder, starting in place of Russell Westbrook who missed the game with a sprained ankle, led the Thunder on an 11-2 finishing run.”
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) with observations from the Thunder’s sixth straight win: “Shot selection. In less than two minutes it almost cost the Thunder the game. George checks back in at 8:51, but Raymond Felton takes an off-balance fadeaway. George gets all the way to the rim a possession later and passes up a layup or chance to go to the line for a Hamidou Diallo 3. The unselfishness from George is encouraging, but the Thunder was hanging onto a four-point lead on an off shooting night, the Cavs were letting the Thunder into the paint at will, and PG passes up a bucket to kick to a 16.7-percent 3-point shooter. Next thing you know, the Cavs have ripped off 10 straight. Schroder comes back in. Crisis averted.”
Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) on why the Thunder wanted Russell Westbrook to travel with the team: “He was still limping but free of any kind of bulky brace two days after suffering a left ankle sprain in the Thunder’s 122-116 win over the Pelicans. OKC (5-4) will be without its star point guard on the court when it faces Cleveland (1-9) Wednesday night, but the Thunder still wanted Westbrook on the road with the team. “He’s a leader,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “It gives him an opportunity here to get treatment while he’s on the road. I think he can help those guys from the bench and locker room, talking to them, spending time with them. I’ve always said this about him: People see him play, but they don’t see a lot of the things he does behind closed doors.”
Tim MacMahon & Royce Young (ESPN) look at Melo’s time in OKC ahead of his return tonight: “Like the Thunder, the Rockets are hoping to unlock “Olympic Melo,” the near-mythical catch-and-shoot stretch 4 monster who feasts on open looks. He tried to be that guy in OKC, but just wasn’t very good at it. He took and made more 3s than in any year in his career: 42 percent of his shots were catch-and-shoot, up from 29 percent his last season with the New York Knicks. He was taking half the number of pull-up jumpers, fewer midrange shots and few isolation jab-stepping jumpers. Fifty percent of his shots came off of no dribbles, compared to 39.8 percent the season before. But here’s the striking number: On open 3s, he shot only 30.5 percent, and 37.8 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s. Most of those numbers align with how it has gone in Houston so far, and obviously the Rockets feel that in their system, with their players and possibly a better chemistry recipe, he can do better.”
Jenny Dial Creech (Houston Chronicle) on the Thunder being a test for the Rockets: “The Rockets need to get consistency from Carmelo Anthony and need to get Gordon back to his lights-out scoring ways soon. And they have to continue to make strides on defense. If they can get those things together, this comeback might hold up and the Rockets might be the team we thought they would be when the season started. It starts with Oklahoma City — which is a place Harden has performed well since leaving the Thunder to play in Houston. Anthony could pick up that same trait as he had a rocky exit from the Thunder during the offseason. A win Thursday would put the Rockets at .500 and keep things trending in the right direction.”
Armin Khansari (The Dream Shake) previews Thunder/Rockets: “Tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder has its own storylines. Russell Westbrook is hurt. Ditto for Andre Roberson. Eric Gordon is questionable too. The Rockets are digging themselves out of the 1-5 hole they worked their way into, and the Thunder are trying to rise into the upper tier of Western Conference teams early in the season. James Harden used to play for OKC. Patrick Patterson used to play for Houston. (Okay, that last one isn’t a big storyline.) It won’t matter. Tonight will be about Carmelo Anthony. The Thunder were a dysfunctional group last season and it showed. They grabbed the fifth seed before bowing out to Ricky Rubio and the Utah Jazz in six games. Their fans blame Melo. He came to the team late in the offseason. He refused to come off the bench. He couldn’t lead the bench units. He had no chemistry with the team. He was a locker room cancer. He was just Josh Smith in a different uniform. Except, he isn’t.”
Around the League: Why Boston isn’t sweating their slow start…. Why the Eurostep is the NBA’s most lethal and controversial move…. Tyson Chandler was effective in his Lakers debut…. Recapping last night’s NBA action…. The NBA will televise this year’s All-Star draft.